Fluoride Action Network

Air Pollution from Stauffer Chemical Phosphate Plant

U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) | December 29, 2000.

Excerpt from U.S. ATSDR’s “Ombudsman Report of Findings and Recommendations Regarding the Stauffer Chemical Company Site.”

Air Pollution

From the instant the plant became operational, there were complaints of air pollution. In June 1948, less than a year after the plant’s opening, eight local residents and landowners filed a nuisance suit (for gases and fumes) in the Federal District Court for Southern Florida, Tampa. Division (II-1). The suit alleged that fumes and gases from the operation were adversely impacting human health and plants, not only in the immediate area, but as far as 8 miles away, and that,

noxious gases and fumes escape therefrom through smokestacks connected with the said plant and by other means and are carried by the prevailing winds over a radius of some four miles from the said plant, that the said gases and fumes are highly deleterious to animal and plant life for the said distance, cause throat irritations and coughing by persons and animals breathing same and the death of young fowls, that said gas is especially harmful to teeth and causes decay and kills and destroys plant life.

Turnpaw’s Deposition

In his deposition, J.M. Turnpaw alleged that emissions from the plant not only damaged plants on his property, but also created problems for his refinishing boat business:

I noticed the lead paints or anything you put on the boats they would discolor, and sometimes would be spotty or kind of blurry on the paint and I went over it two or three times to try to catch it, if it wasn’t quite dry… I varnished several boats like that and noticed the dust and smoke coming from over there, and you could take hold of it just like a piece of paper and pull it off the boats.

When asked how long the problem lasted, Turnpaw stated, “That all depends a good deal on the conditions of the weather and the winds, and with other conditions. I noticed it more with a west or northwest wind, I get that gas smell in the atmosphere.”

When asked if the emissions affected his health, Turnpaw replied, “Mouth dry and tasted like a mouth full of old copper.” When asked if he coughed, Turnpaw answered, “Quite a bit, yes sir.”

Flanagan’s Deposition

In her deposition, Genevieve Flanagan indicated that problems with gases and fumes began to be bothersome at her trailer park in January 1948, causing her to cough and sneeze and creating complaints from her tenants. She said the following:

We smelled it, to begin with, and could see it, and then many trees started dying. It killed a lot of them [trees and shrubs] and it is killing my pine and oak trees as well. All of the natural pines turned completely red, and two oak trees died within a week, the water oaks the leaves just burned; the others lost a lot of their leaves but some of the growth has come back; I don’t know whether they will live or not; and two of the large water oaks died within that week, and one orange tree died. All of my palms. As soon as they put out a new leaf by the time they were out two or three weeks they turned. The plumoso palms, I trimmed a lot of them, about two weeks, and just as fast as they put out the new growth they just turned again.

B. Mickler’s Deposition (Plaintiff)

Bartley Mickler stated in his deposition that since the plant opened, he had lost livestock. He indicated that he lost a lot of pigs and about 100 head of cattle. Mickler admitted that it is normal to lose cows in the winter months, about 10 per year, but he indicated that the past winter had been 200 to 300 percent worse.

Mickler also indicated that pine trees on his 5,000-acre property were affected by the plant. He indicated that in January or February 1948, he noticed pine needles turning red and brown and falling from the trees. His estimate was that at least half of the trees were impacted. New growth would bud and die back without being replaced. Mickler stated that less grass and berries have caused damage to quail and game birds. The grass normally comes out the first of the year, but prior to the lawsuit, the grass came out and died, resulting in grass production being down by 40 percent. Mickler also stated that fumes and gases from the plant settled on palmetto bushes on his property. Samples from palmettos and pine from across his property were sent to the state plant board for analysis.

Mickler traced the damage based upon the way the smoke from Victor traveled, at least 7 miles from the plant. He described the smoke this way: “It looks like a hazey gas substance and you can see it settling for miles and miles through the woods under the tops of the trees.” When asked if you could hold it in your hand, he answered,

It is filte [sic] red, gassy looking substance that you see settling on the grass and stuff, and you notice it floating through the woods and see it gradually settling down. Some of it is a black substance that you can see in the river. It looks like soot, an oily substance on the surface of water, and little black particles that look like soot or something. About three quarters of a mile from the plant, down towards the mouth of the river, I noticed it. It goes up and down the river with the tide.

S.E. Mickler’s Deposition

Bartley Mickler’s father, S.E. Mickler was a well respected individual in the community, having served as constable, deputy sheriff, police officer, and chief of police. He represented the interests of his sister and her husband, Arthur and Ethel Glass, who lived in New York.

Prior to the construction of the plant, Mickler objected to the possible fumes and dust from the new facility and met with Paul Crider who worked for Victor. Crider told Mickler that, “You need not worry about it Mickler, it will not happen here with out plant.” Afterwards, in the latter part of January or early February, “When it commenced killing stuff,” Mickler asked to meet with mayor Howard, who indicated that he would call Crider. Mickler recounts how nothing was done.

He [mayor Howard] said it looks bad; ‘I will take it up with Mr. Crider right away.’ So several times I phoned him and he hadn’t done anything, and I phoned Mr. Beckett, the county commissioner, about it and he promised to go out and look at it. There was never anything done about it at all. I came to the commissioners’ meeting and told them about it here and a bunch of us got up a petition and carried one copy to the city commissioners and one copy to the Clearwater County commissioners.

Approximately 300 people signed the petition. Mickler indicated that around January 1948, he began noticing offensive odors and harmful effects from the plant. He stated that he had smelled the odors in Tarpon Springs, and as far as 6 to 7 miles in the pastures. Mickler stated that, “It has been so thick up there in low spots when the atmosphere would bring it down that it would be just like a fog.”

When asked about the smell, Mickler replied,

Well, it don’t smell like sulphur. It smells like a burnt phosphate to me. Of course, knowing that there is phosphate there, it makes you think of that more than anything else. It makes your throat dry, and you taste it, and it tastes kind of coppery. I get asthma from it, just like Mr. Crider stuffed up yesterday. I can go out here and get into the way the wind is blowing and be in it three minutes and have to take something for my throat. Yes sir, I cough.

Regarding damages to trees, Mickler said,

Well, I came in to dinner in town and I never noticed anything. When I came back out, and just as I went to make the curve, as you run by the oil company and go up towards the plant, I noticed the leaves on the trees being red. I stopped my car and said to myself, ‘darn there has been a fire since I have been along.’ I stopped the car and looked and there wasn’t no fire. I observed the trees had been burned by something, I don’t know what.

Mickler estimated that one-sixth of the trees on his property were affected. He carried samples of pine needles and palmettos to a Tampa chemist, who reported that some of the materials showed 300, 400, and 500 parts per million of fluorine. Mickler further indicated that he helped Archie Clement, Tarpon Springs city attorney, gather materials and that the city manager had sent the samples to the State Plant Board in Tallahassee. Representatives of the Forestry Department visited the Mickler property four or five times. Mickler recounted that, “They said it had to be fumes or gas or something. They said it was not the weather, dry or wet.”

According to Mickler, the emissions looked like a fog, and from a distance an observer could not see through the mixture. Trying to describe the emissions which impact the plants, Mickler stated that,

You can see it on oak or palmetto anywhere in the woods. It is a kind of dusty concern, although not much dust to it, either. It looks oily. For instance, on the palmetto, when it first hits it, it will limber up and look like it has oil on it. It limbers up a leaf and kind of parches it.

Crider’s Deposition (for the Defense)

Paul Crider, plant superintendent, stated that the plant processed elemental phosphorus, slag, and ferro phosphorus. Crider stated that since the second unit was started, the plant employed water scrubbers for the gases, in which water is sprayed into the gases. Crider did not seem to know much about the process. When asked “If the cleansing system has not been cut (turned) on, the gases and fumes will frequently escape, will they not?” he answered, “I suppose they would.”

Crider was asked the following question: “I notice that, at your plant there are high, apparently concrete smoke-stacks, and also what appear to be iron pipes. Do all of the fumes and gases escape through these smoke-stacks and pipes, or through either one of them?” Crider replied: “Through either one of them. That is, they escape from either one, at will. That is, as set by the operator. Not indiscriminately.”

When asked if he knew anything about the chemical content of the gases and fumes escaping from the plant, Crider answered, “No Sir.” He was then asked if anyone at the plant knew about the content, and he answered, “No. Not reliably.” The questioner then asked for a more detailed explanation, and Crider answered:

Well, I will say this: in any process where you are burning fuel it is a matter of knowing how much oxygen you have got in your waste gases, or how much carbon monoxide, in order to control the combustion. As far as the operation is concerned, we people in the operation are not concerned about any other content, and, therefore we do not know.

Crider indicated that some complaints had been reported to the company about the gases and fumes. When asked what changes, if any, had been made as a result of the complaints or subsequent to them, he answered, “No physical changes have been made; in a general sense the procedure has been to improve operation.” The deposition depicts Crider as someone who has little knowledge of phosphate or the extraction process. When Crider was asked four specific questions, he had to return to the stand the next day with the answers.

Claypool’s Deposition (for the Defense)

Victor Chemical also submitted to the court the deposition of John Claypool, an expert witness, questioned only by Victor’s attorneys. Claypool was from West Hempstead, Long Island, New York. He received a B.S. from DePauw University in Chicago, and took advanced and special courses in the College of Agriculture at Purdue University, Indiana, until 1912. He taught pre-vocational and vocational agriculture and in 1916 went to Southwestern Teachers College as a professor of agricultural education. In 1920, he worked for a chemical manufacturing company and a copper smelting company in New York, taking over the investigation and experimentation of the effects of certain smokes or gases and fumes. Over the next 30 years Claypool studied the effects of gases or chemicals in eight states, including Florida.

Claypool first visited Tarpon Springs on March 1st , 1947, while the plant was under construction.6 Of the findings on this visit, he stated,

Vegetation in that vicinity at the time was not in a good state of growth. There had been an early season of drought, followed by unseasonably cold weather. Some plants, notably the pines, showed a scorched appearance of needles in places. It was not universal… There were dead trees in the vicinity, …confined to the pine family… I also found some dead citrus trees in a small orchard near the Victor site. In looking over plant life in Tarpon Springs, I covered, as closely as I could without trespassing or attracting undue attention, within a radius of two miles in all directions.

Claypool estimated that five to 10 percent of the pines in the area were dead. He also said that he saw two men remove and replace dead trees in the citrus grove. The workers explained that the trees had died of either root rot or crown rot and that the orchard had not been well fertilized or sprayed.

When asked about the appearance of vegetation, Claypool said,

Vegetation, generally speaking, did not appear to be in a fine, flourishing condition at all, anywhere… I would not say that it was universally scorched in appearance. I did not trespass to examine closely. From the roads, there were signs that there had been a fire at some time. I was not acquainted with the plant, I did not know whether this was a seasonal thing, whether fire brought those conditions about, but that was the condition of the scrub palmetto at the time… Pale green to yellow.

Claypool showed photos made at the Mickler property purporting to display dead trees. The photos were black and white and after duplication did not provide details of damages. The witness was careful to establish that no trespass occurred, and indicated that he approached the property to within 10 yards, and used field glasses to observe plants and trees for about 1/4 mile.

On February 18 and 23, 1948, Claypool returned to Tarpon Springs in response to a request from Victor, because of unrest among neighbors of the plant and the conditions of vegetation.6 Again, with the plant in full operation, Claypool surveyed the area for approximately 2.5 miles in all directions, and describes what he found on this trip:

In February of 1948, there was some noticeable discoloration of the tips of pine needles or foliage within a distance of a half mile in generally southeast or east-southeast direction. There was, on the date of my arrival, which was the 18th , some loss of green color on the tips of pine foliage, which by the 23rd , upon my return, had become a definite browning of those tips. That appeared to extend almost to the location of some oil tanks along the Anclote River, which is less than a half mile from the operating part of the plant… I continued my close-up inspection by walking along the railroad tracks to the north and found no evidence of anything unusual to vegetation in that direction. There was no noticeable damages to the Flanagan and Turnpaw properties… Foliage (westerly or northwesterly) appeared to show no change since my visit a year before… Sunset Hills, the general condition of vegetation appeared to be better at that time than it had the previous year.

When asked , “Well from your experience of more than 30 years, did you form any opinion as to the cause of the discoloration of the pine needles and foliage at Tarpon Springs?” Claypool answered, “In my opinion, it was caused by a gas or fume… I believe it was probably from a fluoride compound.”

In May 1948, 2 weeks before the lawsuit was filed, Claypool returned to the area. He told the questioner,

The pines on what I have later learned was the Mickler property north of the Victor plant showed, in the case of ten or twelve trees near the fence, a reddening of needles. These trees were spread out over a width of 200 to 250 yards. In looking through the trees along the fence, I could see evidence of fire, but no evidence of fire near these particular trees.

[Near the Flanagan and Turnpaw properties] There seemed to be a reddening of pine needles, some loss of green color of broad-leafed plants, extending in a southeasterly direction from the Victor plant, affecting the pine trees, which I could see from a distance up to or almost to what I now understand to be the Flanagan property.

[Toward Anclote] There seemed to be no evidence of any such condition as I have just described in the other direction, unless it could have been right up to the edge of Meyer’s Cove, which is the Meyers’ property adjoining the Victor property.

[At Meyer’s Cove] There was some browning of needles, some marginal loss of color of broad-leafed plants. I remember a persimmon in part icular, but nothing of any severity.

[At Sunset Hills] There was, at the foot of Florida Avenue, on some pines, small ones, a suggestion of tip injury.

[Near the plant] There was some discoloration of sweet potatoes growing there and of the weed vermifuge. Just across what is known as Anclote Road, that little residential property, there was a gum, I believe it was a gum, that showed some such discoloration of foliage.

[Inside the Victor fence] I cannot be certain as to that [discoloration]. I believe there was some as seen by the glasses. They are very big trees. Some faint signs of some discoloration up there in the tops. There was no excessive defoliation of the pines.

Later that same month, Claypool returned to Tarpon Springs. Since his visit 2 weeks earlier, he noticed that “Appearances had improved by May 26th. By that time, new growth had become where it was visible within the area I inspected, especially in February, and that normal new growth made the reddened condition of the old needles less conspicuous.” The witness indicated that there was no new foliage on oak trees, and no change in the scrub palmetto, gums, weeds, and other foliage.

In June 1948, after receiving notice of the lawsuit, Claypool returned to Tarpon Springs. During this visit, he claimed that,

I found no evidence whatever of any fume or gas damage in the vicinity of the plant. I found evidence at Tarpon Springs, Victor and between Tampa and this area of severe drought. It was reported that in the months of May and June up to that time, rainfall had been less that one-fourth of normal. Fires had been obviously, a frequent occurrence throughout that area.

The questioner asked whether the witness was saying no evidence, or no new evidence. Claypool replied, “No evidence of any new. The pine needles that had shown some discoloration back as far as February were still discolored. They never regained their green.” When Claypool was asked if there was some evidence of perhaps fume or gas damage or, at least, a damage of some kind, he answered, “Yes, yes.”

Claypool indicated that there was a problem with his investigation during the June visit, “Foliage growing on the ground had been largely destroyed, excepting the scrub palmettos, they had survived, were still there. But the undergrowth of weeds and what-not had been destroyed.” He indicated that there had been some fires, but not near the plant. Claypool also stated that despite the dry season leading up to the June inspection, trees were making a normal recovery, that new growth was continuing and that new candles or terminal growth were unmarked.

During a July 1948 visit to Tarpon Springs, Claypool found no evidence of additional injury to plant life.6 In September 1948, he found no evidence of additional damage by discoloration. In April 1949, Claypool returned to Tarpon Springs and inspected the area with Harry Paul and Paul Crider, employees of Victor. His declared that,

I saw no evidence of injury on the properties of the plaintiffs themselves in so far as I could see. The Turnpaw property, for instance, I saw from the vantage point of a residence just west of his occupied by a Mr. Stansbury, I believe. This was the first time I had ever been down that close to the property. There were some pine trees on that property, tall ones, that seen through glasses showed some red needles, but I had no particular reason to believe that they were caused by any gas or fume because there was no definite path of injury leading up to them. For instance, four big pines on the Stansbury property were unmarked.

[On the Flanagan property] I saw nothing abnormal in the appearance of vegetation, as nearly as I could see at all.

[On the Mickler property] There was no change in the appearance of the property as it adjoins the Victor plant… [On the 10 to 12 trees mentioned in the May 1948 visit] I found those trees and they were in a flourishing condition… Well, I mean by flourishing, that the new growth, the candles, as I believe they call them, were really exceptionally good in appearance as to size and no sign of discoloration whatever. New growth had not taken the place of all of the old growth.

Claypool may have qualified as an expert if the test were applied in the court in the late 1940s. However, no such review was conducted and no grant of expertise status was granted by a court. Furthermore, the following should be noted:
* Counsel for the plaintiffs did not cross-examine the witness.
* Examinations were conducted from a distance (the closest was 10 yards), without
 trespass, with field glasses. One plaintiff owned more than 5,000 acres and leased 600 more, which would be difficult to view with field glasses.
* The witness was provided as an expert in damages to trees and plants, yet he was not sure as to what new growth on pine trees (candles) was named.

Other Depositions (for the Defense)

Herman Justice, factory accountant, was deposed on behalf of Victor, and testified that approximately 175 persons were employed at the plant, with about 140 to 145 working in operations. He also indicated that as he passed along he had observed discoloration of pine needles for about 4 months, and that prior to the plant starting operations he had not made such observations.

Victor Chemical’s third employee deponent was E.A. Holtgrewe, who was in charge of operations at the plant. He stated that his duties were to operate the various processes at the plant, in the prescribed manner, as handed to him by Crider. When asked what temperature the rock is subjected to in the kiln, Holtgrewe answered, “That is a question that is pretty hard to answer. I don’t know as I could give any light on that.” He also did not know if other elements are removed from the rock during the heating process, besides moisture and phosphorus. He further did not know what the furnace temperature was or whether the phosphorus released during the process was a gas and if it was condensed.

Holtgrewe was asked if white or gray vapors escaped the plant, and answered,

Yes sir. There are visible signs of some vapors… I am quite sure they are not coming from any of the stacks… Well, I have never seen any vapors come from the stacks… There is some smoke that raises off the slag as it is tapped from the furnace… It is the only vapor that is visible from any distance. What you may have referred to before as vapors coming from the stack is vapors coming from the scrubbing tower, which is dissipated within a short distance of the scrubbing tower.9

Holtgrewe also indicated that since about March, he had noticed pine trees just south of the plant turning brown, but he did not know if they were dead.

Stauffer is Being Investigated (1948-1970’s)

In late spring and during the summer of 1948, governmental agencies were receiving and responding to citizens complaints. On May 17, 1948, Dr. John McDonald, director of the Florida State Board of Health’s Division of Industrial Hygiene wrote to Dr. Paul Haney, director of the Pinellas County Health Department, regarding a complaint. McDonald indicated that three trips had been made on May 13 around the Stevens home and conditions were the same as the day before.

McDonald spoke to Crider, who seemed to thinks tree damage was from tree borers. Crider had asked the plant chemist to take samples of the discharge, but little progress had been made. Crider was, “reticent about details of the process involved in the plant,” and asked McDonald to seek permission from the Chicago office to visit the plant.

McDonald stated that he had taken a sample of rain water collected from a nearby roof for analysis.

On June 4, 1948, Archie Clement, Tarpon Springs city attorney, saw J. J. Taylor, state chemist, in Tallahassee regarding samples that Joe McCreary, Tarpon Springs city manager, had sent to the chemist. Two jugs of water were also delivered for analysis. On June 14, 1948, Taylor sent results of tests on vegetation to McCreary. Sulfur content of the samples was found to be within a normal range, but the fluorine content was considered excessive.

On June 14, 1948, McDonald again wrote to Haney, indicating that he had completed the analysis of water samples from the first week of June. The samples showed an increase in sulfate, more chlorides than expected, and phosphates in excess of 0.1 parts per million. He also reported that a private lab had discovered high concentrations of fluorine in pine needles taken near the plant.

On December 9, 1948, McDonald and his staff discussed the plant’s operations and complaints from the public with executives from Victor. Literature was presented to Victor showing that conifers are particularly sensitive to sulfur dioxide (SO2), with injury occurring from prolonged exposure to levels as low as one part per million. While other parts of the discharge were discussed, it was decided that SO2 was the agent of importance. McDonald stated that, The members of the Division feel that the officials of the company are willing to undertake the reduction of the discharge of sulfur dioxide from the scrubber tower. We also feel that conditions at present have improved from what they were last May. In the early months of the plantÕs operation, the escape of gases was not well controlled.

Air Monitoring Begins in 1977

Little to no information is available regarding air pollution from the 1950s through mid-1970s. The available data is limited to meteorology, SO2, particulate, and ozone. The general information available is discussed in Chapter 7. One worker, Harland Kingsley, said that “You could hardly see for the dust. Your nose would be full of black dust, your whole face was black.” His co-worker, Vernon Hudson added, “It was hell. The steam and slag and dust flying all the time. You could hardly breathe.”

In July 1977, an air monitoring station was installed near the southeast corner of the plant. Air samples for SO2 were collected by a 24-hour bubbler and 3-hour continuous monitoring. Sulfur dioxides near the plant exceeded the Florida standard until 1980, when a dramatic decline occurred, coinciding with the time Stauffer began to shut down the plant.

Table 2 shows the maximum annual SO2 levels from 1977 to 1981. 13

Table 2: Maximum Annual Sulfur Dioxide Levels from 1977 to 1981
Sulfur Dioxide
24-Hour Bubbler 3-Hour Continuous
Year mg/m 3 ppm mg/m 3 ppm
1977 175 0.28 1877 0.72
1978 907 0.35 1550 0.60
1979 592 0.23 2026 0.78
1980 204 0.08 569 0.22
1981 149 0.06 463 0.18

In December 1979, PED Co Environmental, Inc., a contractor for EPA Region IV, conducted a field inspection of the facility and found that many parts of the operation complied with applicable air standards. However, inspectors found problems with the furnace and the slag pit areas. Allowable emissions for the furnace were listed at 30.566 pounds per hour (lb/hr) (tapping) and 30.09 lb/hr (flushing).

While the furnace complied with particulate emissions, the hood did not capture all emissions. The total emissions were estimated at 83.4 lb./hr, plus the uncontrolled hood loss. The inspectors commented that,

The major reason for the emission of uncontrolled particulate emissions from the flushing and tapping operations are the intense heat of the slags and the quantities produced… It is our opinion that improvements in hood design can reduce fugitive emissions within the furnace area, but the emissions from the slag pit and slag run out of the building cannot be controlled by hooding. The particulate sources, with the exception of the tapping operation, appear to be well controlled and operated at near peak performance. The emissions from the slag tapping operations, however, appear to have impacted on local total suspended particulate levels. The submicron nature of the plume and its low level of release do not allow adequate dispersion of the emissions.35

Ronald Roberson, industrial hygienist for the Tarpon Springs plant, said in a deposition that, “When I started in ’72 there were approximately, I would say a dozen pieces of pollution equipment in the plant, largely types of bag house dust collectors, scrubbers, that type of thing.”

He stated that the dust collection equipment was added to the kiln in 1975 or 1976. 36 Roberson also indicated that the plant was having problems with fugitive phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5), and that, “There was quite a bit of fugitive P2O5 emissions in the area. P2O5i is very visible, its very easy to detect by sight. ItÕs white in color and very dense.”

Jerry Harris, the plant manager at the time the plant closed, stated in a sworn deposition that the plant at Tarpon Springs was similar to the plant in Silver Bow, Montana.37 In 1979, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) did a health hazard evaluation determination (Report No. 79-8-584) regarding the operation of the Silver Bow plant. According to the report, “A potential health hazard did exist at the time of the survey due to excessive airborne concentrations of P2O5 and respirable crystalline silica.” Employees were overexposed to both contaminants. In his testimony, Harris admitted that the Tarpon Springs plant had been cited in 1979 by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for dust violations.

In his 1985 deposition, Eugene Anderson, a Stauffer employee for 33 years (working his way into management) made the following remark that confirmed what many had thought was the truth, that for many years, little to no pollution control equipment was used at the plant:

Q: Of your own personal knowledge, do you know whether Stauffer Chemical Company had environmental control devices to either catch or warn of the existence of certain things in the atmosphere or the working environment of the employees out there?

A: At what stage of the game are you talking about?

Q: Well, let’s take it from either last first or when you first started.

A: When I first started there was no controls whatsoever.

Q: What happened over time?

A: Over the period of thirty-three years they put in different collection equipment.

Q: Scrubbers?

A: Scrubbers.

Complaints about air pollution were documented until shortly before the plant closed. On March 4, 1980, Joyce Gibbs, chief of the Pinellas County Air and Water Quality Division, transmitted a memorandum entitled “Summary of Stauffer Chemical Company Complaints,” to Jacob Stowers, director of the Department of Environmental Management, outlining 30 complaints from May 19, 1975, to December 9, 1979. One complaint was accompanied by a petition signed by 24 persons and nine letters asking the state to deny Stauffer’s proposed permit. Another complaint was a log of fugitive articulate emissions with photos.

From May to July 1979, the owners of Flaherty Marina, adjacent to the plant, kept a log of emissions problems.41 Personnel at the marina complained of burning eyes and throat, headache, nausea, tightness of the chest, and difficulty breathing until the fog passed. Dan Flaherty, owner of the marina, told the ombudsman that emissions from the plant damaged the high-gloss paint on a boat in the marina and that he had to completely repaint the boat. He further alleged that with all his complaints, nothing was done until he called the attorney general. On April 12, 1997, Flaherty told the St. Petersburg Times, “That stuff was toxic enough that when they had one flash in the furnace building, several hundred pigeons were killed. They were flopping in the air.” Table 3 is a record of the log entries.

Table 5: Conditions in the Area as Recorded by Flaherty Marina Personnel in 1979
Date Time Conditions
May 31 07:50 p.m. Couldn’t see, even with headlights (seven witnesses)
June 11 06:10 p.m. Complete blackout, seemed to come from about base of new stack
June 15 2:11 p.m. Complete visibility loss
June 16 08:30 a.m. Complete visual obscurity
June 18 03:12 p.m. 70% visibility loss
June 20 04:00 p.m. 90% visibility loss
June 23 01:10 p.m. 100% visibility loss
July 04 08:10 a.m. 100% visibility loss
July 04 09:10 a.m. 90% visibility loss
July 04 10:10 a.m. 70% visibility loss
July 04 10:40 a.m. 75% visibility loss
July 15 11:45 a.m. 90% visibility loss (See exhibits 7 and 8)

On October 11, 1979, a warning letter (No. 52-79-10-168) was sent to Stauffer, resulting from complaints of excessive smoke, fumes, odor, and particulate emissions. The letter, prompted by citizen complaints and subsequent inspections/surveillance, listed seven identified violations. Stauffer responded to the letter and specifically outlined revised efforts to control P2O5  and particulate emissions.

In March 1980, a petition with 149 signatures was sent to Gibbs, expressing concern regarding air emissions and the health of children and wildlife.

On April 17, 1980, an air pollution episode occurred at Stauffer when the electric arc furnace malfunctioned and was shutdown. Visual emissions tests yielded average emissions of 69.5% and 93.75% in a 6-minute period. During a 1 1/2 -hour period, a suspected P2O5 cloud was observed and did not abate, engulfing the building and extending for 1/2 mile or more downwind. The prevailing winds carried the plume east-southeast over populated areas.47 The episode occurred at 9:15 a.m. and emissions were visible until 6:15 p.m.

On February 6, 1980, Jean Graf, a research scientist for IIT Research Institute, sent a letter to Wayne Martin, of the Pinellas County Air and Water Quality Division, discussing results of air samples from the plant. She concluded that fugitive emissions relating to materials handling are the main cause of total suspended particulate (TSP) levels near the plant. In letters to Martin on October 12, and November 2, 1979, Graf detailed the findings of the microscopic analysis of air emission samples. She reported indications of “a strong impact from calcium phosphate source which, I presume was a processing plant producing phosphates for fertilizers.”

The TSP standard of 60 :g/m 3 was violated in Pinellas County from May 1, 1977, through the second week of August 1981.52  TSP and SO2 violations were recorded from 1977 to 1980 in Tarpon Springs, with the 24-hour TSP standard being violated 4 times, the 24-hour bubbler SO2 standard being violated 5 times, the 3-hour continuous SO2 standard being violated 10 times, and the 24-hour continuous SO2 standard being violated 17 times. The TSP standard was met or exceeded six times in 1978 and 1979, and nearly reached another nine times.

On February 25, 1980, Gibbs sent a memorandum to the director of the Florida Department of Environmental Management, summarizing the micro file on Tarpon Springs.

On October 23, 1978, Larry George, of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation (FDER), now the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), wrote a memorandum to Dave Puchaty, of FDEP, regarding an August 15,1978 report by Dames and Moore for Stauffer. George wrote the following:

This report substantiates the Department’s position that the SO2 ambient violations near Tarpon Springs are due almost entirely to emissions from the Stauffer Chemical Company phosphate kiln stack. Included in the report are ambient data collected by the company at a site 0.31 km north of the plant which indicate 10 exceedances of the 24-hours standard and 8 exceedances of the 3-hours standard during 1977.

In 1979, the highest pollutant standard index (PSI) value recorded in Tarpon Springs was 400, with SO2 listed as the responsible pollutant. This value was the highest in Florida, by nearly three times. The average PSI value for Tarpon Springs was 25, which was near the bottom for averages.

In January 1979, FDEP issued an air emissions delayed compliance order to Stauffer. Compliance measurement of the Stauffer plant was a problem. Peter Hessling, of the Pinellas County Air and Water Quality Division, told the ombudsman that,

To the best of my knowledge, they never actually completed a stack test while I was inspecting, from 1980 forward. Something always went wrong, something was missing or didn’t work. The main problem was when they tapped the furnace. It looked like the gates of hell glowing in the dark, it gave off steam and lots of emissions-phosphorus pentoxide.

In 1981, after Stauffer ceased operations, the air quality in Pinellas County improved markedly. The 1983 air quality report cited a 28% reduction from 1980.

Table 5 details emissions from 1978 to 1983. Table 5 details emissions from 1978 to 1983.

Table 5: Stationary Sources Emissions Inventories Tons/Years)
Emissions Type 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983
Particulate Matter 1,155.19 1,308.64 1,956.50 1,139.82 868.59 549.08
Sulfur Dioxide 27,813.39 31,859.57 33,652.55 30,241.61 27,312.68 17,838.80

In response to the worker safety announcement sent to former Stauffer employees, one former employee wrote that:

Even in the early days of plant operation our local manager had controversies with Tarpon Springs government officials. The city complained many times about the fumes, smoke, and dust, which the wind carried across the river and over the city. The slag at the furnace had to be cooled by spraying with water. This generated huge clouds of steam into the air above us, and over the city. Our manager finally ordered [name-withheld] to install a wind direction-and-speed monitoring device on top of the water tower. We ran a cable from the furnace building to the wind machine, and in the furnace building installed a strip-chart recording instrument.This continuously recorded the changes in the wind. The chart was replaced and studied daily. Whenever city officials complained about pollution from the plant, our manager would descend on city hall armed with data and able to exploit any slight discrepancies in the verbal testimonies being given by the citizens. We had them at wits end by showing their figures in error – their wind drift and speed out of order – so more confusion and bad feelings.

Other factors contributing to questions in the minds of the public are spills and uncontrolled fires which occurred at the plant. Little information was made available to the public to reduce fears when incidents occurred.

George McCall, of the Pinellas County Health Department, frequently spoke with plant management. He told the ombudsman that, “There were noticeable emissions when the slag was pulled out, but they tried to improve and reduce emissions in about 1961, or 1962 with collection systems. They looked good to me. They had phosphorus pentoxide, total phosphate and fluorides.” McCall also indicated that a ring of 10 sampling stations were installed near the plant. None of the air emissions data has been discovered.

While little data exists to determine air emissions during the plant’s operation, we know that complaints were registered throughout its years of operation. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the plant had problems with air pollution during the entire period of the operation.

To learn more about pollution from the phosphate fertilizer industry, see www.fluoridealert.org/phosphate/overview.htm